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David L.A. Gordon with Lyra Hindrichs and Chris Willms School of Urban and Regional Planning Department of Geography and Planning Queen’s University
August 2018

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Still Suburban? Growth in Canadian Suburbs, 2006-2016

Executive Summary

Canada is a suburban nation. More than two-thirds of our country’s total population lives in suburbs. In all our largest metropolitan areas, the portion of suburban residents is over 80%, including the Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal regions (Gordon & Janzen 2013). Their downtowns may be full of new condo towers, but there is five times as much population growth on the suburban edges of the regions.

The purpose of this monograph is to update the article “Suburban Nation? Estimating the size of Canada’s suburban population”, published in the Journal of Architecture and Planning Research (Gordon & Janzen 2013), and the 2014 CanU Working Paper. The JAPR article was based upon 1996 and 2006 census data, while this working paper updates the research using the 2016 census data that was released in late 2017.

Our research for the 1996-2006 period estimated that 66% of all Canadians lived in some form of suburb. This proportion rose to 67.5% by 2016. In 2016, we found that within our metropolitan areas, 86% of the population lived in transit suburbs, auto suburbs, or exurban areas, while only 14% lived in active core neighbourhoods.

Canada’s population growth from 2006-2016 was mapped using classification methods modified from the JAPR article. The active cores and transit suburbs grew by 9% and 8%, which was below the national average population growth of 15%. The auto suburbs and the exurban areas grew by 17% and 20%, exceeding the national average. The net effect of this trend is that 85% of the CMA population growth from 2006–2016 was in auto suburbs and exurbs. Only 15% of the population growth was in more sustainable active cores and transit suburbs.


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